Courtney Keenan already had a bachelor’s degree when she enrolled in the Radiation Therapy program at Labouré College. Find out what inspired her to look for a new opportunity and why radiation therapy is such a great fit for those looking to make meaningful connections with their patients.
Have you always been in healthcare or is radiation therapy a career change for you?
I graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Maine with a bachelor’s degree in Health and Wellness. After that, I worked in a nursing home providing activities geared toward older patients. I enjoyed that but still felt myself looking for another way to care for people.
Why did you choose to go into radiation therapy?
I’ve seen my mom work as an X-ray and mammogram technologist so she inspired me to work in healthcare. I really wanted the patient interaction and to get to know my patients. In radiation therapy you get to take care of them over a long period of time. I can work with the same patient over a couple of months and really get to know them well. I did a lot of research before applying and I knew that I wanted to be in the healthcare field providing direct patient care.
How did you learn more about radiation therapy before you applied?
I watched a lot of YouTube videos and that’s how I really got the feel for what radiation therapy is. No one can really understand how to deliver radiation therapy until you see it in action and see the different machines you’ll be using.
Tell us about how Labouré is helping you prepare for your career in radiation therapy.
Right from the beginning, Labouré has been so supportive. The team in admissions was so helpful and everything fell right into place from the start.
My professors in radiation therapy have also been wonderful. Pauline Clancy, the chair of the Radiation Therapy program, and Dee Hammel, the assistant chair of the Radiation Therapy program, are there for you no matter the time of day. They both really want each of us to succeed and get the most out of the program. As part of my orientation, I got to go onto the patient table to really feel what it’s like to be a patient in a radiation therapy clinic. This helped me better understand how to care for my patients and see the experience through their eyes.
What is it like to be an adult student with a part-time job in the Radiation Therapy program? How do you balance it all?
I’ve been really lucky to only have to work on weekends. When I started, I had two jobs and it was just too much. The courses are really time consuming especially physics- studying for it can easily take up a whole day. All my classes are at night so I use my days wisely. It is really time consuming. Pretty much all of my weekdays looks like this:
- Up at 8 am
- Studying for class from 10 am to 3 pm
- Quick break
- Head to class from 4 pm to 7 pm
- Home at 7 pm- review for an hour and then call it a night!
On top of this, I have two 8.5-hour clinical shifts.
What is important to know about working with patients in radiation therapy?
You definitely have to be patient-centered in all you do and have lots of empathy for their experience. Obviously, you’re never going to fully understand their experience, but listening to each and every patient makes their day. You have to be prepared for anything that they might say- it could be a good day or a bad day!
Patients come in daily for radiation treatment and the course of treatment could last 6-8 weeks. You get to develop really close relationships with them, which makes radiation therapy different from other healthcare fields.
What advice do you have for other prospective students looking into Radiation Therapy?
You have to be willing to put in the time into each class. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other students for help and tutoring. Most importantly, you need to have a flexible schedule because things can change all the time and this program needs to be your focus if you want to be successful.